"Disco is definitely making a comeback and we feel it’s perfect timing for us as an act."
When you are in the line of Disco, there is no higher praise than from the King of Disco himself, Nile Rodgers.
Essex band of brothers, Rayowa - siblings Dan, Reece and Luke (formerly of rap/rock group Courts) - have already wowed the Chic legend with their evocative blend of Disco, Soul and Funk, with a 21st century-twist, and the sky is the limit for this ambitious bunch.
Their feel-good EP 'Keepin' Me Under' arrived into the world just as Dua Lipa's 'Future Nostalgia' and Jessie Ware's 'What's Your Pleasure?' - both of which were packed to the brim with glitterball dancefloor fillers - dominated the radio.
And just like Rodgers did with Madonna and David Bowie, they are here to trail-blaze a new generation of modern Disco prodigies.
So grab your best dancing shoes and get to know everything there is to know about Rayowa...
How did you come to record some of the tracks on the EP at Abbey Road? We’re lucky enough to be friends with a mastering engineer there named Christian Wright. He mastered the first two songs on the EP and put us in with the producer Paul Pritchard to work on ‘Better Man’ in The Gatehouse. We recorded some stuff with Alice Haine and Martin Kilian, two Abbey Road Institute students, too. ‘Chance’, ‘The Only Night’ and ‘Keepin’ Me Under’ were co-mixed and mastered in Trinidad & Tobago by a very talented man named Sheriff Mumbles. What’s the atmosphere like at Abbey Road? Did you get anywhere near Studio 2? It’s everything you expect and more. It was a dream come true to be able to walk around the place to be honest. We went into Studio 2 and it was amazing to be in the same room that so many huge artists have recorded in before. It might surprise you but we are big fans of The Beatles, Oasis and Pink Floyd and they all had a big impact on us growing up. Hopefully we’ll record in there at some point. You’ve previously received praise from the King of Disco, Nile Rodgers. How did that feel? Do you think you'll get the chance to work with him? Yeah that was a surreal moment. It was amazing to be honest. To have someone of that magnitude recognise a project you’re doing is really inspiring and helps with being confident that you’re on the right path. We’d love to work with Nile. He said about tracking us down and playing with us when he reached out so we’ll see how it goes! Are there any producers you have on your wish-list to work with? Quincy Jones would be madness but not sure how active he is now, though. Again, Nile Rodgers. Mark Ronson would be unbelievable, too. He knows how to put together a hit record and would get the production sound we want to go for. We’re big fans of Kevin Parker, so that could be interesting in the future. Obviously we have a very different sound to Tame Impala but with the way the last two records sound, who knows maybe in a few albums time Rayowa could delve more into the Psych-Disco world. Serge Pizzorno from Kasabian and Rudimental would be unbelievable as well. What was it like going from a five-piece in Courts to just you three? Did you have to adapt your creative process or does it feel the same? Courts was a very collaborative process initially as we used to write as a band in the rehearsal room. Eventually the writing developed into a thing more led by Reece as he just came into his own with songwriting and production. He was doing it full time as well as composing music for TV & film while the rest of the band still had day jobs. The creative process is pretty much the same in Rayowa as it was in Courts, though. Reece writes and produces most of the music but we get everybody in the band to record their parts so it feels as close to the live experience as you could get while remaining within a Disco production sound. Dan takes care of all the creative side of things and everything you see visually. It’s important for us to be responsible for everything you see and hear so Rayowa feels as real as possible and is exactly what we envision both sonically and visually. Luke’s our lead singer and frontman. It’s a pretty perfect dynamic really. Each of us know our role and we have all the bases covered between us. What one lacks in ability, the others make up for.
"There’s no Oasis type business going on with us."
Was there a specific moment when you knew you were onto something special with the EP? The moment we realised was when Luke came down to give the lead vocals a try on ‘Better Man’. He hadn’t sung before. Reece had written a demo of the track and so discussed with Dan about starting a new band. As soon as Luke sang the first line there was a moment where we felt like, ''Okay so this is what we should be doing. The three of us together.' That was when we spoke to Nico, our last drummer from Courts about getting involved. We brought in our mates Mike and Pete Anderson who play percussion and bass respectively. Then we got Darnell and Jasmine in on backing vocals and Dave on trumpet and then the live band was sorted. It’s taken an unbelievable amount of work to get up and running but it’s been worth every second.
The EP is so uplifting, relatable and needed right now. Did you ever consider not releasing it during the pandemic? That’s really satisfying to hear and is exactly how we’d hoped people would receive it, so thank you. We never gave not releasing it a thought. We just want to get this music out there and get as many people as we can to hear it.
‘Better Man’ is such an important song in terms of documenting battles with anxiety and depression. How important was it to vocalise those vulnerabilities for yourselves and others as well? We just think it’s a really important conversation today and something people shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about. There’s very few people in the world who can honestly say they haven’t suffered at some point. Of course some more serious than others - but how one person perceives their struggles to the next can be completely different. It’s subjective. We just hope that record has empowered people and the message has helped them open up if they’re struggling.
What’s it like being in a band of three brothers? Do you ever have Noel and Liam moments? It’s great. We’ve known each other forever and have always done everything together since we were babies. That closeness allows us to be honest with one another with our creative feedback. It can be quite difficult working with people at times, especially if you disagree. The beauty of our brotherhood is we always either have the same vision from the off, or in the rare times we do disagree we end up just trusting whoever is the most knowledgeable on whatever the decision involves and go with that. There’s never any arguments or fighting. There’s no Oasis type business going on with us. You’ve announced a hometown show in December, all being well, what can fans expect from your live show and how excited are you to play these news songs live? We’re absolutely buzzing to get back to playing live. We miss it and the rest of the band members like you wouldn’t believe. There’s nine of us that play the shows together and we honestly can’t describe the energy we have between the group. It’s not like anything any of us have experienced before. It’s such a good vibe when we are all together and that positive energy extends out into our ethos. Rayowa is all about love and unity for all of us. No egos, just pure feel-good music that we want to share with people when we play live. That’s the main reason we do this. Our ambition is to put on incredible shows for people and really move them. People of all different backgrounds coming together to just enjoy the music as one. Whatever else happens is just extra.
"Rayowa is all about love and unity for all of us."
Disco is having a bit of a revival with Dua Lipa, Jessie Ware and Lady Gaga among those to release Disco pop records. Are you fans of their work and do you think this will be a boost for your music? Yeah, Disco is definitely making a comeback and we feel it’s perfect timing for us as an act. We’re big fans of Jessie Ware’s new album ('What's Your Pleasure?') and of course Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa are incredible artists in their own right. It’s definitely really helpful to us that such huge acts are adopting a more Disco -influenced sound. It will allow Disco to be really present in the consciousness of the masses again and so hopefully when people hear our brand of it they’ll be acclimatised enough to take to it right away. What are your hopes and dreams for Rayowa? It’s early days for us yet but we feel like we’ve built a pretty solid foundation now that we can spring off. We’ve written a list of pretty absurd goals to be honest but we believe in visualisation and aiming high is the only thing we know how to do. We want to release our debut album and then headline Brixton Academy on the album tour. Who knows after that. We just feel grateful that we’re doing it and people are responding so well to what we are putting out. We’d love to help pave the way for a new modern UK Disco sound and help other acts with this sort of sound to come through, too. We’ll see what happens but we’re working harder than ever so hopefully the graft pays off. What’s next for you as a band. Are you still working on new music? We’ve been working on EP2 while releasing the songs from the ‘Keepin’ Me Under EP’. We want to get new music out as soon as we can. The album is on the cards, too. It’s a very exciting time for us and we’re buzzing to get the next EP out to people.
'Keeping' Me Under' is out now.